View Full Version : Hyperfocus in Romantic Relationships


Kelleigh16
05-29-14, 12:03 PM
I have been dating a 33 year old man with ADHD for a couple of months. He is on medication and is also seeing a therapist once a month. He seems to be pretty high functioning although he interrupts frequently and has trouble following a serious conversation.

I started researching ADHD so I could better understand him and be more tolerant of the symptoms. Everything I read about having a relationship with an adult affected by ADHD warned me about the hyperfocus stage. Doctors and people in relationships with adults with ADHD make it sound as if one day my boyfriend will be completely different and basically become emotionally distant, inattentive, and completely disinterested in me.

Is this inevitable? Will he ever come back from that? I am terrified because the last thing I want is to be with an emotionally unavailable man. I can't imagine him changing so drastically though. He is so sweet and attentive now. I think it would devastate me if he no longer seemed to care for me or worse yet just got bored and hyperfocused on another woman.

Can anyone share any experience or knowledge with me on this subject? I am really freaking out.

dvdnvwls
05-29-14, 01:53 PM
If you are the kind of person who has a strong overriding desire for constant attention, then ADHD men might be dangerous territory for you; the feeling that you've found the perfect man, followed by a big disappointment.

I think there's more to the situation than simple loss of hyperfocus. What he's really like without hyperfocus counts for a lot. He might not change drastically, but he will almost certainly become less consistent or continuous in his attention to you. If the main thing that attracts you and keeps you is the constant high level of attention you're getting, then question the whole relationship. If there's a lot more to this relationship for you than just that, and if you'll be happy with less attention than you're getting now, then it's not hopeless. Because there IS going to be somewhat less constancy of attention - that's pretty much a guarantee.

It also matters a great deal how much attention you have for him - specifically, whether you'll quit paying attention to him when you see his attention become less consistent. If he feels you giving up on him, he'll probably give up too. If he feels that you still love him the same even though his focus is no longer on you 24/7, then things can easily be okay.

About his attention, being happy to live with inconsistency is probably an important key for you.

Kelleigh16
05-29-14, 02:17 PM
Thank you for your response, dvdnvwls.

There is a lot I like about him besides the attention (he is sweet, fun to be with, and makes me laugh.) Plus we are both very active and share common interests. In fact, his attention and desire to be together 24/7 is a bit overwhelming at times. I am very independent and have a very full life.

I am up for a healthy amount of attention and do not need a man's focus to be solely on me. However, I do not mesh well with men that are emotionally unavailable or completely inattentive and cold. Your response doesn't make the change seem so drastic. As long as we can emotionally connect and he doesn't withdraw all affection or attention I think we'll be fine.

I did make an appointment with my psychologist to discuss all of this. She is a marriage and family counselor so I hope she have some insight as well.

dvdnvwls
05-29-14, 02:35 PM
The marriage and family counsellors I've seen have been worse than useless, because in general they don't understand ADHD and just pretend everyone is the same. The advice you receive on this forum, and in books such as Gina Pera's Is it You, Me, or Adult ADD? , will be far more on-topic and valuable. People with ADHD are weird, and trying to fit us into most marriage counsellors' plans is usually a recipe for disaster.

Kelleigh16
05-29-14, 02:38 PM
I'll take what she says with a grain of salt.

dvdnvwls
05-29-14, 03:08 PM
In my direct experience, which has been limited to one relationship and three counsellors, the marriage counsellors' advice was not "good but take it with a grain of salt", but instead "crazy, laughable, and completely off topic". Not because they weren't good counsellors but because they didn't know ADHD. They were making exactly the same harmful assumptions that the public at large makes, about people with ADHD. If we had never seen the counsellors, we would have had a better chance.

Having my ex's incorrect and harmful assumptions about ADHD confirmed by an "authority" (an authority who didn't know what they were talking about) was one of the contributing factors to our demise.

Kelleigh16
05-29-14, 04:13 PM
What are the harmful assumptions to watch out for?

VeryTired
05-29-14, 05:21 PM
Hi, Kelleigh--

Welcome to the Forums. You've come to an excellent place for insight and advice, and you've already met one of the people (dvdnvwls) from whom I have learned most in my time here. You are raising an extremely important topic which is often on my mind. (There have been some good previous discussions of this previously--do a search on "relationship hyperfocus" and you'll find them.)

People have very different experiences regarding this end-of-new-relationship-hyperfocus thing. My experience was exactly what you fear, and it was very bad. It took a long time after that before my partner got his diagnosis (in middle age), so negotiating the end of hyperfocus was really scary and confusing. It's a perfect storm of alienation: the person who is transitioning from paying incredibly close, loving attention to me all the time to being in a world of his own, often unable to notice me was unable to see himself making that transition. He literally could not tell the difference, and when I described it to him, he was surprised that I noticed or that I cared. To him, it was all normal--it always happens to him with relationships.

If I had known this could happen to me, I never would have gone on the first date with my partner. I hate it. It really rocked my world to form a bond and a relationship, and then have the other person (apparently) turn into someone else and wholly disengage with me. But by the time I understood what happened, we were living together and our lives were interconnected in many complicated ways. And as I came to understand about this ADHD relationship hyperfocus phenomenon, I accepted that it wasn't intentional or negligent of him. It was not in his control. I'm not very happy about how he deals with it, but being frustrated with that is different from being mad that this is true at all.

None of us can tell you what to do or assess your situation. But I will tell you that for some people, at least, the turning off of the hyperfocus is devastating, a violent change. Maybe your boyfriend won't do what you fear, or maybe it will be mild. It's not inevitable. But if he does and if you can't bear it, you should feel free to make whatever choice is right for you. Just because it's not his fault if it happens doesn't mean that you are required to accept it.

Let us know your thoughts, and how things go with you in relation to this.

all good wishes to both of you--

Kelleigh16
05-29-14, 06:01 PM
Thank you, VeryTired! I really appreciate your honesty and openness. I have decided for now that I am going to try and remain hopeful and cross that bridge if and when I come to it. I do think it is a good idea to take things slow until I think the hyperfocus period has ended. I have heard too many stories from people that say they were engaged and/or living together after 6-9 months and then the shift occurred. It will be easier to move on if we aren't living together or planning for our future. I have already formed a strong attachment so there will likely be pain in my future. Who knows? Things could work out just fine or I could lose interest in him tomorrow. Doubtful, but it could happen. :-)

I will continue to participate in this forum for sure. It seems to be a good place to come for tips, advice, and understanding on both sides.

dvdnvwls
05-29-14, 06:20 PM
What are the harmful assumptions to watch out for?
The harmful thing to watch out for is that the person you're speaking with is not an expert in ADHD who works with ADHD people every day. If they are not, then if their mouth is moving they're giving you bad advice.

What I just said may be an exaggeration. However, I guarantee that it's far far less of an exaggeration than you're hoping. Really, sincerely, read Gina Pera's book - it will be worth hundreds of sessions with your psychologist.

dvdnvwls
05-29-14, 06:35 PM
What are the harmful assumptions to watch out for?
Now that the true answer is out of the way (my other recent post), to answer the question you meant to ask:
There are only three harmful assumptions, really...

- that you already know what ADHD is or what it's like

- that the person with ADHD is a normal person who's got some wrong behaviours and ideas, which can be corrected by instructing him or getting him treatment.

- that the person with ADHD can control his ADHD if he chooses to.

RobboW
05-29-14, 07:15 PM
Hi Kelleigh16, I'm not diagnosed yet, but I'm 100% sure I have a form of ADHD, we'll see what turns up, but I can give some insight from my perspective. I'm 45, married (nearly 22 years) with 4 children, of whom most show various ADHD signs.

I've known I was a bit different for a long, long time, trouble organising, couldn't study etc etc, but had plenty of natural intelligence to scrape by with, so did school, then trades course (struggle and stress) and worked. Met my wife when about 19 (she is a bit less than two years younger), things were good because it was only the two of us, it wasn't too confusing and she is honest and direct (we ADD need that). She is however a fairly (to me) emotionally needy kind of person. Maybe she's really not and that is just my perception? I can't answer that. We managed ok for years. I likely had that hyperfocus finish quite early on, but we both worked and were busy building our life, house etc. Then we started having children, things got harder for me, so also harder for her. As we had more kids, life got messy. I mean messy by inconsistency, randomness. ADD doesn't deal well with random.... I guess you would call me withdrawn, inattentive. It doesn't mean I don't love my family at all, I just love a little differently. The kids are ok with it as they mostly share some traits and probably "get it" without needing to look into anything. My wife is used to it and sometimes tries hard to get my attention, but if I'm hyperfocused on something that doesn't go too well. When I can come out of hyperfocus I need a little time to orient myself back to family but when given that time it's ok. If things have to happen, I work best off a list of tasks. Verbal instructions are best used minimally and as a generalisation else I get overwhelmed and confused. The list is what works. Don't take a seeming bit of distance as no longer loving because that is not true, we may just need a little space to think. You can use that hyperfocus for your own fun sometimes. Get your fella hyperfocused in bed and he could stun you :yes::giggle:

I'm losing concentration on this now so I'll stop here. I might add more later.

Hope things work out for you, cheers, Rob :)

VeryTired
05-29-14, 08:25 PM
Kelleigh--

I think your idea of taking things slow sounds just right. It's a smart way to protect yourself a bit, but really it should be good for both of you. No need to rush. See where you are, take it easy. Everything is much simpler when you aren't living together.

sarahsweets
05-30-14, 04:21 AM
Sometimes for me, hyperfocus can come and go or repeat. So while I could lose focus in the relationship, if its worth it, I return with hyperfocus so its goes back and forth.

daveddd
05-30-14, 04:55 AM
does anyone have any information on relationship hyper focus?

I'm interested in this

i can see an emotionally intense honeymoon period, then lacking the emotional intelligence (common in adhd) to form an emotional intimate relationship that is the natural next step

but hyper focus makes it sound like we don't care

kilted_scotsman
05-30-14, 06:31 AM
My partner accepts my ADD and understands the limitations it causes. She encourages me to go out and explore/research how to improve my relational functioning and also gives me accurate feedback about how I am coming across both to her and others.

She also accepts that I can hyperfocus on women outside our relationship. It has been really difficult for me to unlearn the cultural message that one doesn't talk about one's attraction to another woman to one's partner.

One of the most powerful thing for me has been to be able to voice what is happening for me and through that understand how hyperfocus is just a semi-addictive response to a neurochemical "hook".

Now I've got a handle on this I can recognise it for what it is.... so I can go with the flow and not think I've just fallen in love again.... or even in lust.... I've just had a free shot of something other people pay highly for.... and wrecks lives.

It has taken many years but I am finding that my explorations of my psyche are allowing me to moderate my response to relational hyperfocus.... and surf the big neurochemical wave without as much fear or tunnel vision.

someothertime
05-30-14, 09:00 AM
I am terrified because the last thing I want is to be with an emotionally unavailable man. I can't imagine him changing so drastically though. He is so sweet and attentive now. I think it would devastate me if he no longer seemed to care for me or worse yet just got bored and hyperfocused on another woman.

Here is my 2c fwiw.

I see this point as relating more with day to day interaction on the medium longer term side of things, and ongoing "relationship proactiveness".....

It's not exactly correct that interest vanishes or diminishes. It's more macro than that. I would agree that in general.... one must prepare for a time / times when the perhaps lively and engrossed person becomes distant or pre-occupied with other things.

I think it's very important though, to separate this from any absence of feelings or boredom / leaving.

Emotionally unavailable is an inaccurate though fitting descriptor. The thing is... It's part dynamic and part modality... The truth is we are always emotionally available.... It will not be the same format that it was in the beginning of the relationship.... though with the right mode and dynamic..... it is possible to foster even greater connection and depth. Though it would take a patient and forgiving partner to foster that space. And the individual under the ADHD must also carry the intent.

Either way, communication is your best litmus. If a person can be open, and demonstrates intent upon message..... this is a very good thing.

Kelleigh16
05-30-14, 09:53 AM
"She also accepts that I can hyperfocus on women outside our relationship. It has been really difficult for me to unlearn the cultural message that one doesn't talk about one's attraction to another woman to one's partner."




You are very lucky to have found such an understanding partner. I can handle the celebrity crush thing. I can even handle comments about attractive women in real life. I don't think I could handle it if my partner thought he was in love with someone else.

kilted_scotsman
05-30-14, 10:50 AM
You are very lucky to have found such an understanding partner. I can handle the celebrity crush thing. I can even handle comments about attractive women in real life. I don't think I could handle it if my partner thought he was in love with someone else.

Not many people can handle that...but unfortunately many people fall in lust/love with others outside their relationship.... it's a fact of life.

I feel the key is to understand that relational hyperfocus is a neurochemical thing, which triggers strong sensations and behaviours.

Unfortunately we "label" this erroneously... calling it love (or lust).... when in fact it's hyperfocus....

The trouble is that if we don't understand what's going on... then the object of our hyperfocus isn't going to have a clue..... they think we're head over heels in love with them... and naturally they're fully entitled to feel annoyed when we wander off.... and hyperfocus elsewhere.

The trouble is the relationship is often a fair way down the road by this point.... sometimes people have moved in together, even thought about marriage/kids etc.....

If both parties know the score then it pays to slow things down.... OK so enjoy the hyperfocus when it's there.... but wait a while to see how things pan out before making any serious commitments.

Likewise.... once the relationship has gone beyond the hyperfocal stage.... then the ADDer can acknowledge the hyperfocus on someone else by naming it.... and that gets it out in the open.....

The key is to name it properly..... it is hyperfocus.... not love or even lust, though it may look like it to outsiders and this is where the problem comes from..... the ADDer has been told that the group of sensation/behaviour he's feeling are "love" when they're not..... and much pain flows from that misunderstanding.

Love is not lust...... relational hyperfocus is neither.... once ADDer and potential partner get that straight life gets a bit easier.

Kelleigh16
05-30-14, 11:20 AM
I don't have ADHD, but I often mistake lust for love. Funny thing is I was called a "honeymooner" once because I would never stay in a relationship longer than six months. As soon as there were problems or things started getting dull I would move on. I think my behavior was quite similar to an ADHDer once the hyperfocus ended.

I have had a few long relationships since then (2+years) and I learned the benefits of sticking it out. True intimacy is developed over time. I was just settling for a false sense of intimacy that comes from being physical with someone.

My bf was in a relationship that lasted six years. He said the first two years were awesome and the last four years were not much fun, but they both stayed because it was comfortable. I am assuming the change in their relationship could have something to do with the hyperfocus ending, but I have no idea really.

My bf often asks me if I still like being with him. I always say yes. I really have no idea how he could think otherwise. I think I am pretty expressive about my feelings and affectionate. Then he tells me that if I stop wanting to be with him I need to leave. I tell him that if I wanted to leave I would. It is strange. I think he has self-esteem issues because of his ADHD. He has been told he is annoying and hard to handle his entire life. I think normal people are boring. Everyone can get annoying at times. Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm not always easy to handle either.

I am hoping that things work out. It seems as though many people have very different experiences with hyperfocus. He wasn't working when we first met and was texting me all the time and always wanted to see each other. His texting decreased significantly once he started working. I completely understood this and it was nice because I was able to concentrate better while I was working. He still wants to see each other everyday, but I am not able to. My life is very full and I spend as much time with him as I can, but I also need to exercise, spend time with family and girlfriends, and have some down time. He pouts when I can't hang out, but he gets over it quickly.

More will be revealed...

jende2
05-30-14, 11:22 AM
I would agree with VeryTired when she writes that it's so much simpler when you aren't living together. I've been dating my ADHD boyfriend for 2 and 1/2 years now. The dating period when he was hyperfocusing on me was great! I had no idea what was going on - HE didn't know he had ADHD and neither did I. I was just enjoying the attention - after coming out of a marriage with an emotionally unavailable man, it was great! I purchased a house about 1 year into our relationship. As he got ready to move in with me, things started to fall apart - and fast! I don't know if I never really noticed, or perhaps he was able to just hold it all together for that long. But the hyperfocus started to end, and in its place was impulsivity, irresponsibility, promises made to do things but no follow through, disorganization, anxiety, sloppy/messy and no help with the chores, etc. I could go on and on.

I knew something was VERY wrong, so I began doing internet research. I also talked to two of my friends who work with children who have Learning Disabilities and had met my boyfriend. Everything started to add up....... I shared all of this with my boyfriend, and to his credit, he took it well. He even commented, "I always thought that there was something wrong with me. It's like my brain doesn't function correctly."

Near my house is a very well-known and respected ADHD Clinic. After three sessions, my boyfriend was diagnosed with ADHD and co-morbid anxiety. It's exactly what I had expected..... This Monday, he goes to the psychiatrist for meds. He has also agreed to see an ADHD Coach. I was quite honest with him and told him that if these things don't work, I'm going to put the house up for sale and move on with my life. He said he respected my feelings and understood. I know that sounds terribly unkind, but - compared to our dating life - living with him has been close to a nightmare.

What is my point in writing all of this to you? To say: enjoy it while you can, pay attention to everything with eyes wide open, and don't move too quickly to live together, get married, etc. I wish you both the best of luck.

daveddd
05-30-14, 11:56 AM
Not many people can handle that...but unfortunately many people fall in lust/love with others outside their relationship.... it's a fact of life.

I feel the key is to understand that relational hyperfocus is a neurochemical thing, which triggers strong sensations and behaviours.

Unfortunately we "label" this erroneously... calling it love (or lust).... when in fact it's hyperfocus....

The trouble is that if we don't understand what's going on... then the object of our hyperfocus isn't going to have a clue..... they think we're head over heels in love with them... and naturally they're fully entitled to feel annoyed when we wander off.... and hyperfocus elsewhere.

The trouble is the relationship is often a fair way down the road by this point.... sometimes people have moved in together, even thought about marriage/kids etc.....

If both parties know the score then it pays to slow things down.... OK so enjoy the hyperfocus when it's there.... but wait a while to see how things pan out before making any serious commitments.

Likewise.... once the relationship has gone beyond the hyperfocal stage.... then the ADDer can acknowledge the hyperfocus on someone else by naming it.... and that gets it out in the open.....

The key is to name it properly..... it is hyperfocus.... not love or even lust, though it may look like it to outsiders and this is where the problem comes from..... the ADDer has been told that the group of sensation/behaviour he's feeling are "love" when they're not..... and much pain flows from that misunderstanding.

Love is not lust...... relational hyperfocus is neither.... once ADDer and potential partner get that straight life gets a bit easier.

Ok help me out with this theory

I kind of get the just a hyper focus thing. Like stimulation or whatever

It would be funny to say to a girl. Ahhh baby she just a hyperfocus

So are you seperating a real relationship and just a hyperfocus?

Because people with ADHD are completely capable of loving someone and it not just being a "hyperfocus"

Are relationships are more than just a fix. Or can be. Everyone probably has a one night hyperfocus here and there

kilted_scotsman
05-30-14, 12:15 PM
Yes everyone has a bit of hyperfocus..... the crush phenomenon....

and yes I am separating relational hyperfocus from "real relationship" feelings....

trouble is it takes us much more time to tell them apart and that's why we can fall into relational elephant traps..... and pull innocent NT's in after us!

moth2flame
06-02-14, 10:32 PM
Can anyone share any experience or knowledge with me on this subject? I am really freaking out.

This is just my personal experience, so take it with a grain of salt! That said...

I have ADD, and 4 of my 7 relationships have been with other ADD people (formally diagnosed; that ratio may well be higher if you go on traits alone)

Only in one relationship have I truly experienced what you describe: total 100% engagement and attention from a partner, that dissolved into complete and utter disinterest (on their part), after about 6 months, almost overnight. At the time, I was not diagnosed myself, and this switch came as a total shock; in hindsight, knowing much more about how ADD can manifest in different people, I understand what happened with him. It was still painful, but now I can at least wrap my head around why. I also don't believe it was entirely the ADD to blame; that made it much worse, but his history was full of other emotional red flags I should've paid attention to, but didn't. Live and learn.

But this was only one ADD person out of 4; the other 3 were very different. One lasted only a short time (~2 months) before it simply became obvious we were glaringly incompatible; I was the one who lost interest and broke things off when I realized this, not wanting to drag it out. Another never seemed terribly interested in me to begin with; I was interested in him, but he was hung up on someone else and thus emotionally unavailable, so we mutually agreed it wasn't really working after about 6 months. I'm still friends with both of these, years later.

The most recent, it's been almost two years and we're still together. We both have inattentive ADD, though, and are both introverts; neither of us requires a ton of attention from the other to begin with, which is why I think it's been sustainable for us. If one or the other of us required more attention, it could definitely be a problem. Of course there was the honeymoon period where things were more intense, but we seemed to have survived through the calming-down period without either of us becoming disinterested.

In short: I think it really depends on the people and personalities involved, more than the simple fact that one or both has ADD. Yes, the hyperfocus-then-crash phenomenon can happen, and it sucks mightily, especially if you don't see it coming. But just because you're dating someone with ADD doesn't mean your relationship is automatically doomed to fail in this manner. It's all about how compatible you are across multiple areas of your lives, and how well you both can handle (or not) the inevitable transition from intense honeymoon phase to the more sedate long-term phase.

That said, I think taking it slow is always a good idea. :) I rushed in FAST to the one that burned me, and now I see exactly why that was such a bad idea. I could have avoided so much hurt simply by slowing down and being reserved, and waiting to see what would happen once the other no longer saw me as a Shiny Thing, but actually a real person with real emotions, wants and needs. So just hang in there, and hard as it is, try not to worry! If it's meant to work out, it will.

DistractedLemur
06-02-14, 11:28 PM
I think there's a bit of a danger of jumping to blaming it on the ADHD with this stuff. Relationships are strange and complicated things. A lot of what's being said here could apply to any normal relationship; the crush, the honeymoon phase, the incompatibilities coming to the fore after a few months.

I can really only speak from my own experience. Reading these forums has helped me see things about how I behaved in my own relationships that I had zero awareness of at the time, none whatsoever! I'm sure I was being told but I just didn't get it at all, to me I was normal and girls were crazy needy lunatics. Some may actually have been crazy needy lunatics, but also I can now see the hyper-focus behaviour wasn't helping. It wasn't three months and then I'm bored, it was intense at the start and then on-off, on-off, on-off constantly. Repeat for duration of relationship.

To sum it up, on date night you're the centre of my world, on guys night or if I see something shiny I will have apparently forgotten you even exist so don't expect calls or messages and expect me to be absolutely mystified as to why you're now annoyed.

I can now understand how this on/off attention could totally throw the other person emotionally off balance. But I think it's more of a trait within relationships which might be difficult, not something that's in itself going to decide the length of the relationship.

Wookiee
06-05-14, 02:09 PM
I can (and have) spent long periods of time on my own. Yet when I meet a certain type of girl and get hooked I hyperfocus on them.

Unfortunately I seem to hook onto girls who are less affectionate than me.

dvdnvwls
06-05-14, 02:28 PM
I can (and have) spent long periods of time on my own. Yet when I meet a certain type of girl and get hooked I hyperfocus on them.

Unfortunately I seem to hook onto girls who are less affectionate than me.
There's a possible tendency (I don't know whether this is documented or not, or if it even could be documented) to unconsciously choose a girl who will help you to re-play the major problem of your childhood. For example if as a child you felt a lack of parental affection then as an adult you might tend to choose someone who is un-affectionate. Would people do that because the situation seems familiar? Because they want another chance, to "get it right this time"? I don't know.

Lunacie
06-05-14, 02:57 PM
Now that the true answer is out of the way (my other recent post), to answer the question you meant to ask:
There are only three harmful assumptions, really...

- that you already know what ADHD is or what it's like

- that the person with ADHD is a normal person who's got some wrong behaviours and ideas, which can be corrected by instructing him or getting him treatment.

- that the person with ADHD can control his ADHD if he chooses to.

... just because I think this post is absolutely worth quoting. :yes:

kilted_scotsman
06-05-14, 03:46 PM
dvdnvwls is on the right track, people often have patterns oin relationships, however the causation is more complex.....

If you go to a transactional analysis therapist they will see this as indicative of "game" behaviour.... repeatedly engaging with someone who doesn't fulfill one's needs... it seems good at the beginning but then there's a "switch" when it goes bad.... and both parties wonder what happened.

The reasons for this behaviour are complex...

daveddd
06-06-14, 06:18 AM
I think there's a bit of a danger of jumping to blaming it on the ADHD with this stuff. Relationships are strange and complicated things. A lot of what's being said here could apply to any normal relationship; the crush, the honeymoon phase, the incompatibilities coming to the fore after a few months.

I can really only speak from my own experience. Reading these forums has helped me see things about how I behaved in my own relationships that I had zero awareness of at the time, none whatsoever! I'm sure I was being told but I just didn't get it at all, to me I was normal and girls were crazy needy lunatics. Some may actually have been crazy needy lunatics, but also I can now see the hyper-focus behaviour wasn't helping. It wasn't three months and then I'm bored, it was intense at the start and then on-off, on-off, on-off constantly. Repeat for duration of relationship.

To sum it up, on date night you're the centre of my world, on guys night or if I see something shiny I will have apparently forgotten you even exist so don't expect calls or messages and expect me to be absolutely mystified as to why you're now annoyed.

I can now understand how this on/off attention could totally throw the other person emotionally off balance. But I think it's more of a trait within relationships which might be difficult, not something that's in itself going to decide the length of the relationship.

everything we do has a basis in normal behavior

we just tend to do it to extremes in either direction

ADHD is an extreme in normal human behavior (mainly lack of self control)

RedHairedWitch
06-06-14, 06:41 AM
I agree with Sarah that the hyperfocus comes and goes over time. I've done this myself as well as seen it in my ADHD man.

I see it as an amplified version of a normal relationship. all relationships are intense at the beginning. All relationships have periods of waxing and waning. All relationships deal with being ignored or taken for granted. All relationships have times where you really focus on each other. With ADHD, it's simply more pronounced.

Very difficult for NT's who do not know about ADHD and get the wrong impression. But if you know, and understand, it can be easier.

ADHDers can make great partners to people who tend to be very independent. If your relationship style is of the "joined at the hip and we like to wear matching jackets" type, it may not work for you.

Wookiee
06-06-14, 12:54 PM
I am more the joined at the hip type... :(

But that may be more a self esteem issue.

I draw the line at matching clothing tho lol.

Muddygrl
06-06-14, 04:03 PM
wow light bulbs turning on for me. I think I have ADD , not been diagnosed. I had no idea about the hyperfocus IN relationships thing. I do hyperfocus on things, but didn't realize it happened in relationships, but that makes sense. I am not super aware of it happening in my relationship though. But I am trying to think back and I realize that I was pretty hyper focused when DH and I were dating. But over time that did kinda , I don't know, lessen? I began to focus on other things.

But the thing is, for me, it never made me NOT love him, or not be interested in him. I am a truly committed loyal person. I think a person with ADD can have just as strong of a relationship as anyone else. Relationships and love are not just about "feelings" and "focus". It's also a choice. My DH met everything I wanted in a partner and he's loyal too. He wanted to take things slow, and we didn't get engaged till we were together for 3 years. I was probably focused on "getting married". haha.

But anyway, once we were married, things did get rough a bit for a while, but I was still committed. We worked on things and we still belong together. We are still married and happy, our 10 year anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks. But I do see , looking back where my focus has shifted over and over in our married years, from getting married, to work, to wanting a baby, having a baby, tending to her needs and focusing on that so much that it probably drove DH crazy, to now, that our daughter is 3 1/2, I am finally coming out of taking care of a baby and I am feeling a sense of shift and relief . I actually spent a lot of time depressed and overwhelmed the first 3 years because I didnt' realize all the chaotic, mind numbing repetitious things I would have to endure as a stay at home mom. :eek: I love my daughter dearly, but I zone out a lot and can't stand the chaos.

I am feeling on a high, at the moment and good, because I just cleaned the kitchen and the house is in order and it feels good... um.

back to topic, but anyway, my point is that I think you can truly have a good deep relationship with an ADD person, the advice of realizing that you won't always be the focus though (non add person), is good to keep in mind. If you can base the relationship on communication and interests and goals held in common , that will get you really far. Just like any relationship. Staying informed is good. I am grateful my dh is so loyal and has never been one to demand my attention or affections. He just accepts me for who I am.

sarahsweets
06-07-14, 05:34 AM
Now this is just my personal experience. When I have dated NT's the imbalance in the relationship (tipped in his favor of course) was very noticeable. Where he would be driven and focused and wanting to take the most direct path as a means to an end, I wandered along the way taking the winding, slow route. The balance of power was always noticeable. Not that power even needs to be an issue but it sure seemed like it was. The guy I was with before my husband I had dated from age 16-19. I thought he was "the one" but I think I was more into having someone at all, that I ignored the obvious differences and was too in love with the idea of being in love to see that if it were to continue I would end up one unhappy gal. I met my husband when I was 18 and we dated the minute I broke up with him. So I was 19 (he was a year older)when we started dating and we were engaged that fall. We were still in college. That following summer when I was 20 we were married. Now under any other circumstances I would tell someone else they were f**king crazy to even consider getting engaged and married that young. I would tell them they didnt play the field enough/

The difference was my husband is ADHD as well and for whatever reason we were both able to hone in on each other. At first I thought it was hyper focus but I believe that we were able to have an "even" balance of hyperfocus because we are both adhd. Its like neither of us was bothered by the hyperfocus or periods of independence that followed. I know I am EXTREMELY lucky. This september we will have been married for 19 years.
I guess what I am saying is that the NT's in my life did not understand this but my adhd husband did.

Lunacie
06-07-14, 10:31 AM
Now this is just my personal experience. When I have dated NT's the imbalance in the relationship (tipped in his favor of course) was very noticeable. Where he would be driven and focused and wanting to take the most direct path as a means to an end, I wandered along the way taking the winding, slow route.

.

Wow, that describes my relationship with my husband. :doh:

I've wondered if he had ADHD because of a couple of traits, his father was certainly a compulsive hoarder,
but yeah, hubby was driven and focused and drove me crazy by taking the most direct path to the goal
while I wanted to take my time and enjoy getting there.

I used to laugh about getting lost on actual trips, saying that I was just checking out the scenery. :giggle:

Example of hubby: we played a lot of AD&D and he aggravated every dungeon master who took the time
to flesh out his scenario and annoyed the other players who knew there was treasure to be had by exploring
the dungeon but no, hubby had to go straight to the goal and get out again. :umm1:

roflwaffle
06-08-14, 04:57 PM
I have been dating a 33 year old man with ADHD for a couple of months. He is on medication and is also seeing a therapist once a month. He seems to be pretty high functioning although he interrupts frequently and has trouble following a serious conversation.

I started researching ADHD so I could better understand him and be more tolerant of the symptoms. Everything I read about having a relationship with an adult affected by ADHD warned me about the hyperfocus stage. Doctors and people in relationships with adults with ADHD make it sound as if one day my boyfriend will be completely different and basically become emotionally distant, inattentive, and completely disinterested in me.

Is this inevitable? Will he ever come back from that? I am terrified because the last thing I want is to be with an emotionally unavailable man. I can't imagine him changing so drastically though. He is so sweet and attentive now. I think it would devastate me if he no longer seemed to care for me or worse yet just got bored and hyperfocused on another woman.

Can anyone share any experience or knowledge with me on this subject? I am really freaking out.

I don't think you would need to worry about him hyperfocusing on another women per say. If he was cheating on you, it might be a symptom, but the main problem there is the cheating not the ADD.

I'm not sure how to articulate this other than by just saying that hyperfocus in romantic relationships doesn't work like that. He might start to hyperfocus on other things more as time goes by, or perhaps you might notice it more if you're in a committed relationship and are around each other more than in the past, but hyperfocusing on other women doesn't seem like something that can occur unless he's not romantically interested and committed to you.

I'm going to go off on a little bit of a tangent here, but in my experience, I tend to act more "normal" when I'm in romantic love (the attraction phase) because I get a boost in dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, and if I fall out of that romantic state, then I'll get a little more ADD'ish (more lethargic, less able to have well developed and emotionally intense conversations, less able to pay attention to specific things, etc...).

How well controlled your boyfriend's symptoms are (talk to his therapist if you can) on his meds are a good indication of what/how severe his symptoms may be later. I don't think that characterizing his future state as emotionally distant and completely disinterested is totally inaccurate, although that may be how you perceive it, but inattentive certainly is accurate. We are after all dealing with a deficit in executive function.

If he's inattentive, it doesn't imply he's emotionally distant or disinterested, just that his attention is elsewhere. It would be extremely useful to try not to internalize that inattention (eg he doesn't love you/isn't interested in you), and instead work on ways of helping him direct his attention to you if that's what you need. Minimizing conflict also helps, since anyone, and I would wager, especially people with ADD, find it hard to focus when they're upset.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that intimacy/affection and novelty help me a lot, and that conflict really messes things up. I suspect I'm able to stay in/around the attraction stages of relationship for a long time, but when I got knocked out of that things were much more difficult for my wife and I because I became stressed and my ADD symptoms were more prominent, which caused her a lot of stress and left us both incapable of helping each other. We also had mounds of problems outside of our relationship that didn't help, but in general I think that in most cases a successful relationship is the result of a consistent, informed, and compassionate effort by both partners.

If you're really concerned about this it's something you need to confront systematically and with great care.

DistractedLemur
06-08-14, 07:57 PM
:goodpost:

Very well put roflwaffle.

roflwaffle
06-08-14, 10:05 PM
Thanks!

Kelleigh16
06-09-14, 04:34 PM
Update: My bf brought up his ADHD the other day. He mentioned he was seeing his psychiatrist and thought me needed to up his meds a bit. He has had a lot of changes in the past month (new job, moving, etc) and is feeling a bit out of sorts. I brought up that I had been researching ADHD a bit to try and better understand him and asked if he had ever heard of hyperfocusing in a relationship. He had not heard of it. I explained it a bit (as best as I could) and he said that he doesn't think that has every happened to him. It felt good to talk to him about it.

I also started seeing my old psychologist again. She is not a specialist in ADHD, but she knows all about my relationship history and can help me show up the best possible way. I have no control over my bf or his behavior, but I do have control over how I react. I have a feeling I would be pretty sad if I messed this up. My bf is a very good guy and we get each other. We are actually friends and lovers which has been hard to come by in my experience. It is funny because he said he actually thinks I have a touch of ADHD as well because I can keep up with him. I reminded him that I require a good deal of caffeine to keep up with him. :-)

Things are still relatively new and I can't predict the future, but I am hopeful. I'm grateful I found this forum and I appreciate all of the experience you so openly share. I think this will continue to be very helpful to me. Thank you!

thorfinnur
06-13-14, 07:33 AM
I can only speak from experience. The shifting of hyperfocus away from the relationship has not ruined my relationship at all. It just seems to progress like it should. We rented a place together, we had a baby, we bought an apartment and we are getting married.

The lack of hyperfocus even seems to work well for us. As with many of us I need a fair bit of space at times and she is happy with it as long as I prioritize my family over my most time consuming hobbies.

atSWIMtooboreds
06-13-14, 09:36 AM
Hi Kalleigh! I've had issues in several past relationships where my hyperfocus dwindled and it ended up hurting the person I was with. In my view, the big difference between the "honeymoon" phase and after was not how much I cared about my partner, nor even how much I was curious about or interested in my partner, but how much time I spent on them, and how I responded to demands on my time from them. Once I found some new "projects", the relationship was usually actually healthier, except that I often couldn't turn away from them back to the person I was with. So you'll want to distinguish between a few sources of potential difficulties:
(1) the difficulties that come with hyperfocus (jealousy, overanalysis, potential resentment if you're less attentive than they are);
(2) the difficulties that come with the loss of hyperfocus (hurt feelings, generally; and
(3) the difficulties that come with the ADHD partner's hyperfocus being shifted to something new.

Remember that ADHD is in large part an inability to regulate attention. Once the hyperfocus on you has dissipated, it may seem like a lack of emotional care that makes it impossible for your partner to shift his or her attention to you and your needs at a moment's notice. But it's not. We can't make ourselves shift our attention to anything at a moment's notice, no matter how deep our care for that thing goes. So be prepared for that aspect of the later stages of the relationship and I think you'll be fine.

Arthas
06-26-14, 05:02 AM
Example of hubby: we played a lot of AD&D and he aggravated every dungeon master who took the time
to flesh out his scenario and annoyed the other players who knew there was treasure to be had by exploring
the dungeon but no, hubby had to go straight to the goal and get out again. :umm1:
I'm an avid gamer, too, and I've seen that player sooooo many times. That could simply be over enthusiasm to reach the main goal, and that the loot isn't really that important to him.

That said, when my wife gets in her hyperfocus zones, I tend to end up in a similar place, because her focus is 100% elsewhere, I throw my focus into gaming and even though I don't have ADHD, I guess you could call it hyperfocus, too.

Vivid_thoughts
07-27-14, 06:02 AM
It can be a strange thing for me in relationships. I cna meet a girl and hyperfocus for a bit - This would usually last a month and then drop straight off. You'd probably know after 3 weeks that I wasn't interested anymore. Otherwise I would have to say that it tends to fizzle out, rather than pop. But the fizzling out is only the hyper focusing part, it doesn't mean to say he'll dump you.

It could be all I love you, marraige, kids etc, then after 3 months it'll turn into a more normal relationship . Bare in mind that when I am hyperfocused on a female and I tell her how greta she is - I do genuinely mean it, it's not some kind of game being played and if he tells you that you make him feel great- then he could be telling the truth.

Kelleigh16
08-11-14, 06:20 PM
It has been a while since I've posted. The past few months have been really awesome. I continued to date the man I wrote about. We fell in love and we've had a lot of fun together. His ADHD was well controlled with medication. A few weeks ago he had a hiccup with his insurance and was unable to get his prescription refilled. He recently fixed the problem, but his new insurance won't go into effect until September.

The past few weeks have been really, really difficult. I know they have been harder on him than on me because he is the one with the disorder. I have been trying to be tolerant, loving, and patient. I have reminded myself that what is going on is the disease and not him. It doesn't really help. I am really hurting. There has been a significant reduction in the amount of time we spend together. He forgets we made plans and does something else or just tells me he is going to do something else even if it means we won't see each other for a while. He hardly ever calls me and rarely initiates contact. He isn't very affectionate when we're together and spends a lot of time on his phone. He still says he loves me, but it is really hard to believe.

I am fortunately very independent and have been staying busy, but I am feeling really lonely and I'm resentful that I am lonely even though I have a boyfriend. I am really tempted to seek attention elsewhere, but I am not that kind of person and I know it will just make me feel worse. I am really hoping that things go back to the way they were when he gets back on meds, but the whole situation terrifies me. What if he decides he doesn't want to take medication at some point in the future? I don't think I can stay with someone who doesn't show me he loves me. Actions speak so much louder than words.

I don't think I've ever been as happy in a relationship as I was a month ago. It has been a very long fall from that high to where I am now. The most annoying part is that I am never the needy one. I am usually the one that gets annoyed by a needy guy. I hate feeling needy! I don't think wanting to spend 2-3 evenings with my boyfriend and have him actually pay attention to me for part of that time is needy.

He only has time for me after he does everything else he wants to for the day and expects me to get together at 10pm when I wake up for work at 6am. I'm not willing to do that just because he wanted to go play softball. As far as I'm concerned if he really wants to see me he'll make it happen. He just blames me for us not spending time together. He used to tell me he missed me if we hadn't seen each other in a day or two and he would say no to almost anything if he had a chance to hang out with me. We all need our own time and hobbies, but I need to be somewhere on the list of priorities.

A friend made a good point the other day. She said that my expectations are very reasonable...for most men. However, my expectations may be unreasonable for a man with ADHD. I really love him so I hope that isn't the case. I'm not willing to give up yet. I figure I'll give it at least another month to see if things get better. I'm not really feeling optimistic though.

aeon
08-12-14, 01:21 AM
Me: ADHD-PI, dysthymia
My Sweetie: GAD, SAD

It's been eight years now. :yes:

And I can say for sure that when it comes to the overall quality of the relationship, it (and I) is at its best when I am on my meds. (not that I ever want to be off of them, but sometimes issues of money and insurance have gotten in the way.)

-----

Don't neglect your own needs, and always advocate for (and be responsible for) your own needs. Ask him for help in meeting them if you so desire.

But remember that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. That excuses nothing, but can explain a lot.

I can appreciate that this time when he is not medicated is hard. To be sure, it's hard for him too. If he's noticed the difference in his own life experience that being medicated can bring about, I'll bet he's looking forward to September every bit as much as you.

I wonder to what degree he is aware of your hurt, and because of the mix of love for you and shame about himself, especially as the stimulus for your pain, he is overwhelmed and withdraws not just because of ADHD, but also because it is both self-protective and self-punitive. Just speculatin'. ;)

I hope both of you are able to reach a place of greater well-being, trust, intimacy, and love for one another and for yourselves. :)

AbundanceAbound
08-26-14, 12:50 AM
ADHDers can make great partners to people who tend to be very independent. If your relationship style is of the "joined at the hip and we like to wear matching jackets" type, it may not work for you.

RedHairedWitch,
I read your quote above with interest, as that hasn't been the case with me. I am the very independent one and while I thought my ADD-boyfriend was also relatively independent, he is also extroverted and seems to need almost constant contact. If he hasn't heard from me in a couple hours or so he will text me to see why I am not "studying" him (his weird phrase). I suppose he's still in the hyperfocus stage though it has been 11 months since we met. We do similar work at the same company so you'd think he'd realize that I am busy but he even does it at work though it's easier there to tell him I'm busy and he'll drop it. Frankly I hope it IS the hyperfocus stage because if it's not, then that's a bit too needy for my tastes. :umm1:

Pentax
08-26-14, 08:23 AM
RedHairedWitch,
I read your quote above with interest, as that hasn't been the case with me. I am the very independent one and while I thought my ADD-boyfriend was also relatively independent, he is also extroverted and seems to need almost constant contact. If he hasn't heard from me in a couple hours or so he will text me to see why I am not "studying" him (his weird phrase). I suppose he's still in the hyperfocus stage though it has been 11 months since we met. We do similar work at the same company so you'd think he'd realize that I am busy but he even does it at work though it's easier there to tell him I'm busy and he'll drop it. Frankly I hope it IS the hyperfocus stage because if it's not, then that's a bit too needy for my tastes. :umm1:

Similar situation here, two plus years into the relation.

It created a subset problem that he expected response to all his texts, calls, but when I initiated a text or call about something going on in my life he didn't reciprocate w attention to me. Since the ratio was and is about 9 text/calls from him about his life to 1 from me, the non response to me wasn't good. I wasn't needy, I was being omitted. We just have had an air clearing about this in which I told him explicitly what I did and didn't need when I wanted to communicate to him what I was going through in my life at my end of the cell communication. .

I went through a phase of hating my cell because like Abundance, his constant sending something to me kept breaking up my attention. ..and texting me again, if he didn't get an immediate response. It seemed selfish or needy if he kept texting me if he knew I was at lunch with someone or in a meeting. But I think now it's possible that he had forgotten or didn't care that I was with someone else, and just does his own thing, let the chips fall where they may at the other end. Regardless of what I had told him earlier, he wasn't thinking about my work, needs etc when he texted. I've gone to turning the ringer off and telling him that I'm doing it, when I am in work periods or interacting w other people. Or have had enough for awhile. And telling him when it's back on.

He multitexts to more than one person when at table w others or in meetings, btw, not my style, but he's not alone in the habit

Probably, non ADHD people who get into LTRs with someone with ADHD are more independent. They wouldn't make it, otherwise. Their needs are not reciprocated in usual ways. Non adhd people who hang around these relationships are not clingy and needy as a group. If anyone thinks that generalization, it's false as a generalization. You can't have a needy personality and survive in this situation long

And I'm not talking about love and affection lacking in the relation, coming from either side. I adore my SO and am with him for the duration.

In labor and care taking, physical and mental, the load is uneven, and will be. He and I don't want to do parallel lives, which, frankly in skills including skills of emotional self care, I'm better equipped and more experienced at doing than he is. We don't want parallel lives. We like each other, he's deeply affectionate and we want to work out sharing. So we're having to go out of the box to create our own interface, often. Much is in the beginning stages and long term habit change is still in the air

Me getting much more into cell, ipad and email connex rwith mine than I'd prefer on my own, and our road to his adjustment of his habit of constantly texting me wanting feedback and getting nervous if I don't reply but not minimally reciprocating. is just a bit of it. I'm having to insist on doing what I need, because I'm not on his mental map, post hyperfocus. I've had to forget the expectation that he will act with the same continued short term attention to detail related to me that is usual with a man who doesn't have Adhd, once the relation has moved past early romance.

No, this is not the type of relation that a clingy, insecure non ADHD partner survives in very long. I'm not dissing ADHD or people who have it. I really want to live in this new world with the man I love.

Sorry about the long post which started about cellphone use and ended about independence or its lack, on either side

VeryTired
08-26-14, 12:36 PM
Pentax--

You said lot here! Many important topics--this is really good.

I agree--SO much--that in fact non-ADHD partners of people with ADHD are actually more likely to be independent than the reverse. That's my experience, and I think it's that of many others, also. You said it so well here. Thanks.

As for text message communication imbalance between partners, what you described is uncannily like the situation with my partner and with me. It is strangely comforting to find out that the problem wasn't ours alone. We haven't really made any breakthroughs of understanding on this one yet, but my partner has mostly learned not to barrage me with anxiety e-mails if I am at work, at the doctor, in a meeting, etc.

That's very good, of course, but what I wish for is that he would genuinely learn to understand my experience/feelings/needs in this situation. And I think instead it's a case where he has settled for changing a behavior of his that was distressing to me without really "getting" why it bothered me. And it's definitely true that his anxiety about not being able to reach me when he's stressed has calmed down quite a bit as a result years of experiencing that the bottom line is always that I am there for him in the end.

The whole question of parallel lives vs shared life is a huge, huge, huge one, and very complicated and important. Maybe at some point one of us should start a whole thread just on that topic ...

Pentax
08-26-14, 08:14 PM
The whole question of parallel lives vs shared life is a huge, huge, huge one, and very complicated and important. Maybe at some point one of us should start a whole thread just on that topic ...

I'm game, any time it comes up.

asilaydying84
10-29-14, 10:31 PM
I have been dating a 33 year old man with ADHD for a couple of months. He is on medication and is also seeing a therapist once a month. He seems to be pretty high functioning although he interrupts frequently and has trouble following a serious conversation.

I started researching ADHD so I could better understand him and be more tolerant of the symptoms. Everything I read about having a relationship with an adult affected by ADHD warned me about the hyperfocus stage. Doctors and people in relationships with adults with ADHD make it sound as if one day my boyfriend will be completely different and basically become emotionally distant, inattentive, and completely disinterested in me.

Is this inevitable? Will he ever come back from that? I am terrified because the last thing I want is to be with an emotionally unavailable man. I can't imagine him changing so drastically though. He is so sweet and attentive now. I think it would devastate me if he no longer seemed to care for me or worse yet just got bored and hyperfocused on another woman.

Can anyone share any experience or knowledge with me on this subject? I am really freaking out.
must be on Adderall. I hated that drug. hyperfocus sucks, I want to be able to control myself, if he is on Adderall ask him to try Dexedrine or desoxyn. you will see a huge difference in him. one thing to with stimulant drugs, add or not your brain does get stimulation from them because they release dopamine and adrenaline, it does cause arousal, mainly with the Adderall the other two were soft and gentile compared to that mixed amphetamine crap. when you put all the amphetamines in one pill except methamphetamine you get a blast to the face so to speak. its over stimulating in my experience. Dexedrine is straight dextroamphetamine and desoxyn is straight dextro-methamphetamine. educate yourself on these meds and talk to him about them. good luck to you. and by the way pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine is the softest stimulant by far. check it out, its not the illegal deadly crap.

Lunacie
10-29-14, 11:18 PM
must be on Adderall. I hated that drug. hyperfocus sucks, I want to be able to control myself, if he is on Adderall ask him to try Dexedrine or desoxyn. you will see a huge difference in him. one thing to with stimulant drugs, add or not your brain does get stimulation from them because they release dopamine and adrenaline, it does cause arousal, mainly with the Adderall the other two were soft and gentile compared to that mixed amphetamine crap. when you put all the amphetamines in one pill except methamphetamine you get a blast to the face so to speak. its over stimulating in my experience. Dexedrine is straight dextroamphetamine and desoxyn is straight dextro-methamphetamine. educate yourself on these meds and talk to him about them. good luck to you. and by the way pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine is the softest stimulant by far. check it out, its not the illegal deadly crap.

Scare tactic condemnations of any med as "crap" are not helpful to anyone. :doh:

Everyone reacts differently to meds - that's why there are so many different ones now.

Some do have a bad reaction to Adderall, but for others it's the only thing that works.

Flory
10-29-14, 11:23 PM
whatever drug he choses to take for his adhd is none of his girlfriends or your business quite honestly, AILD